The Andrews Labor Government is deeply disappointed by the news that Carter Holt Harvey Building Supplies Group (CHH) intends to close its Morwell softwood sawmill, resulting in the loss of 160 jobs.
Our thoughts are with the workers and their families during this difficult time.
The New Zealand based company advised government officials of its intentions yesterday and the Labor Government was eager to explore options to keep the sawmill operating.
However, the Government has been told the closure is unavoidable given poor sawlog quality and a lack of volume available from the privately-owned softwood plantations which supply Carter Holt Harvey.
The plantations from which Carter Holt Harvey sources its wood were privatised and sold to Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP) by the Kennett Government in 1998.
A number of damaging fires, including Black Saturday, across HVP’s Gippsland plantations over the past two decades has severely affected the volume and quality of 28 year-old sawlog available to supply Carter Holt Harvey.
HVP can no longer supply the Morwell mill with enough wood for it to be profitable, having lost approximately 7 million trees to fire.
In contrast to hardwood timber supply, the Government does not own any softwood plantations and is therefore unable to impact the market between softwood growers and timber processors.
Government will work with Carter Holt Harvey to ensure every effort is made to connect impacted workers to support services.
The Latrobe Valley Authority will act as a one stop shop for workers, where they can access support services and other assistance.
Government will continue to discuss the sawmill closure with Carter Holt Harvey and advocate for company-led initiatives to minimise the impact to workers.
Carter Holt Harvey’s other Victorian sawmills in Yarram and Myrtleford are unaffected by the company’s decision.